I remember being at a game in 2003 or 2004, when I was nearing the end of my years as a respectable autograph seeker. I was lined up with the other fans near the Indians dugout, watching batting practice and waiting for some kind player to come grace the baseball or cards I had in my hands with his signature. A few minutes after I took my post, a kid near my age sidled up next to me, not holding a card or any Indians gear, but instead clutching a cardboard box of Cocoa Crispies.
The box, of course, was for the young Indians outfielder Coco Crisp to sign, which he did graciously, laughing at the young man’s wit. This small memory sticks with me because it made me curious as to how Coco Crisp (born Covelli Loyce Crisp) got that nickname. Perhaps more than other sports, baseball is a game rich with unique and interesting names and nicknames, and it doesn’t take much to get lost among Baseball-Reference pages and chuckling at the names of the guys who played.
That impulse, amplified by 100, is how D. B. Firstman came to write their first book, Hall of Name: Baseball’s Most Magnificent Monikers. The book is something like Jay Jaffe’s Cooperstown Casebook meets Deadspin’s “Let’s remember some guys,” with more information than you could imagine.
The one thing that is immediately clear, from page one, is that Firstman put in the time for this book. The level of research that went into creating Hall of Name is impressive, with guys who got no more than a cup of coffee in the big leagues, such as Kevin Mmahat, getting a couple of pages devoted solely to their work.
Because of its encyclopedic nature, Hall of Name is not the kind of book you have to read cover-to-cover to fully enjoy; it can be digested in whatever manner you please. And with the humor Firstman employs, it really is enjoyable. The book is not, however, pointing and laughing at silly names; Firstman’s writing conveys the seriousness with which they took this endeavor, and the respect they have for the individuals listed. Hall of Name is committed to the silliness of baseball names, but also to telling the reader more about those players and the careers they had.
Here you can listen to a conversation Firstman and I had about their book. Hall of Name is due out on March 17, and is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or by request at your local independent bookseller. You can follow D. B. Firstman on Twitter for more from the author.